CLRP

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS


Fundamental Rule:
Providing the Person with a Disability With a “Level Playing Field-Equal Opportunity”

A reasonable accommodation can give the tenant with a disability an exception to the specific rules and policies that apply to other tenants in order to enable the person with a disability to enjoy the tenancy in the same way as other tenants. Some typical examples are no pets, no visitors who remain more than one month, assigned parking spaces by length of tenancy, rent due on the first of the month. All of these may be adjusted as a reasonable accommodation for a person with disabilities.

Disclosure of Disability Required

A tenant must request a reasonable accommodation when he/she will need to have an exception to one of these rules or policies in order to enjoy the dwelling in the same way as another tenant who does not have a disability. To request a reasonable accommodation, tenants must disclose that they have a disability and that a change in the rule or policy is necessary in order for them to continue to live there.

Undue Burden or Hardship

There is no obligation to provide an accommodation requested by a person with a disability if to do so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the landlord. The test to determine whether a landlord can refuse a “reasonable accommodation” request as unreasonable is whether it creates a financial or administrative burden/hardship. The burden is on the landlord to make this argument. An undue burden is a substantial difficulty or expense; one which creates a significant strain on the resources of the landlord. The level of expenditure of effort that constitutes a substantial difficulty or expense is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the cost of the accommodation in relation to the total resources of the landlord. The words burden/hardship are used interchangeably.

If it is determined that the requested accommodation would in fact impose an undue burden, the landlord still has the obligation to provide an accommodation up to the threshold where it becomes an undue burden. In any case, the LL must make a serious “good faith” effort to resolve the problem and ensure that the person with a disability has the same opportunity to enjoy the full range of benefits of the housing as all other owners or tenants.

A landlord must give a reasonable accommodation unless it causes an undue hardship on the landlord Salute v. Stratford Greens Garden Apartments, 136 F.3d 293 (2d Cir. 1998) Courts have been more willing to accommodate financial difficulties when the reasonable accommodation does not itself directly involve financial hardship. In other words, when the financial question is simply who will pay for an otherwise reasonable accommodation, courts have been willing to shift that cost way from the person seeking the accommodation.

Fundamental Alteration Not Required

There is no obligation to provide an accommodation requested by a person with a disability if doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the services or resources provided by the landlord.

Example:


  • Landlord provides space for tenants to engage in recreational activities. A request that the landlord hire a recreational specialist to facilitate activities for persons with disabilities would probably constitute a fundamental alteration. However, assuring that persons with disabilities have reasonable access and opportunities to use the recreational space would be required.


Examples of Reasonable Accommodations

Example:


  • Parking Fees: When the accommodation requested is a parking space, courts have been willing to find that a fee for the parking space must be waived, or that landlords must bear reasonable costs of providing the parking space. See Shapiro v. Cadman Towers, Inc. 51 F.3d 328(2d Cir. 1995)

  • Assigned Parking Spaces: An individual who needs to park closer to the building due to his or her disability, must be accommodated in this way.


Example:

  • Refusal to Relocate: A case was filed against a Housing Authority based on its refusal to give a tenant a reasonable accommodation after she witnessed a murder/suicide from her bedroom window of her apartment owned by the housing authority. She developed post traumatic stress disorder which caused her to be isolated in her apartment, in a continual state of fear, and the inability to sleep in her bedroom. A reasonable accommodation request to relocate the client to another complex was denied based on the claim that she wouldn’t recover even if she was moved. After a lengthy legal battle, the case settled.

Example:


  • No Pet Policies: A reasonable accommodation an emotional support pet is essential to the tenant’s recovery. The tenant must provide documentation that the animal is part of the tenant’s recovery program, but the tenant does not needs to tell the landlord how the animal will assist him/her, or what his or her disability is.

  • Whittier Terrace: A MA case, the judge ordered the LL to permit the tenant to retain his cat since the tenant had developed such a psychological dependence on the cat that the tenant’s doctor certified that the cat was a necessary reasonable accommodation.

  • Majors v. Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb: Invalidated application of no-pets rule in case of woman with mental disability that requires companionship of pet dog.

  • The Housing Authority of New London filed an eviction action against a tenant whose son needed a dog claiming that the dog created disturbances inside and outside of the building. The tenant argued that her son was mentally challenged and dependent on the dog and that the eviction violated Connecticut state law. The court held that although under Connecticut law reasonable accommodation for a person with mental disability may include permitting the keeping of an animal in a public housing complex, the tenant had not provided any medical or psychological evidence of her son’s mental disability and had not established that his academic deterioration was related to the prospect of losing his dog. Housing Authority of the City of New London v. Toni Tarrant


Example:

  • Time Limits For Visitors: A tenant who requires a live in aide, disclosed this fact to his landlord, and requested that the rule prohibiting visitors for more than one month be changed to allow the aide to reside there, as a reasonable accommodation to the limit.



Example:

  • Timely Rent Payments: A landlord has the right to make sure that rent is paid in a timely manner, but if the tenant needs to have a reminder, either verbal or in writing, the landlord should accommodate this need if it is appropriately requested.


Example:

  • Shortly after leasing an apartment the condition of an individual with psychiatric disabilities worsened and he was hospitalized. His psychiatrist informed the management company that the tenant was unable to continue to live in his apartment, but Defendant refused to return his security deposit and billed him for the balance of the year’s rent. The tenant sued, alleging that the corporation had failed to make reasonable accommodation. The Court held that the refusal to accommodate the tenant by waiving fees or allowing early termination of a lease was a violation of the FHA. Failing to allow early lease terminations imposes a high level of risk upon people with disabilities entering into a lease, thereby limiting their ability to use and enjoy dwelling units generally. )Samuelson v. Mid-Atlantic Realty Co. 947 F.Supp. 756.)

Courts Have Concluded That a Reasonable Accommodation Must Be Given Prior to a Tenant Being Evicted

The court held that the landlord could not evict the tenant without making a reasonable accommodation, which, according to the court, would preserve the peace and permit the tenant to continue to live independently. The court found that the landlord had not make an accommodation and could not evict the tenant until “this Court is satisfied that course of action (eviction) is the only alternative.” The court assigned the Housing Specialist Department to monitor the efforts of the landlord to meet the reasonable accommodation requirement and to report to the court on a periodic basis on the effectiveness of the services being provided to the tenant. Worcester Housing Authority v. Santis Mass Trial Ct., Housing Ct.

An apartment complex is required to attempt to accommodate plaintiff’s psychiatric disability before it can evict him on the grounds that he constitutes a threat to safety of others. Roe v. Sugar River Mills Assoc. 820 F. Supp. 636:

An apartment complex is required to demonstrate that no reasonable accommodation would eliminate or acceptably minimize any risk posed by tenant with mental illness who exhibited abusive behavior before it can evict him on the grounds that he constitutes a threat to safety of others. Roe v. Housing Authority, 909 F. Supp. 814 (1995)

St. George Villa Associates, dba St. George Apartments v. Barhurst, 5th Dist. Wash. Cty, Utah (1996). The owner and operator of a federally subsidized housing project filed to evict a tenant with a history of mental illness because of complaints alleging the use of vulgar language in common areas and specific rule violations. In finding for the tenant, the court reasoned that the relevant complaints...are manifestations of defendant’s disability. The court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint and noted that the defendant should receive the reasonable accommodation of “better supervision and security.” The court also reasoned that the project’s owner “benefits from federally subsidized housing and should accept the burdens of making reasonable accommodation for defendant’s disability. This holding is consistent with case law in Citywide, Roe v. Sugar Mill, and Roe v. Hsg. Authority of Boulder.